Besides the purely technical aspects of ei's new Thumbdrive storage device, a company executive endorses the product with what could well be the most inventive marketing pitch of late: "it looks cool." So says Umar Hameed, the company's vice president of sales, about the plug-and-play Thumbdrive devices, which are the size of a chewing-gum pack and can hold up to 128M bytes of data. The product may well find a market niche, according to an analyst. "It addresses a little niche market between [Iomega's] Zip and Clik drives," said Xavier Pucel, a semiconductor market analyst at IDC. The new Thumbdrives are compatible with the USB standard and have a storage capacity that ranges from 16MB to 128MB. Its price ranges from around £45 to £265 for the 128MB drives. The Thumbdrive device provides portability, access to the USB standard and file security, the company's Hameed said. "The USB port being everywhere ... gives a lot of options when I go somewhere," he said about his personal use of a Thumbdrive. He also pointed out that many laptops are stolen each year and Thumbdrive provides a way for users to store sensitive data outside of their PC. The company's Web site suggests Thumbdrive is ideal for storing MP3 files, presentations, digital images and work documents. Thumbdrive does require a driver on the desktop to run, but no other software, drive unit or wires are needed. The drives work with PCs that use the Windows 98 and Windows 98 SE operating systems. A 256MB version is expected to be released in July. The Thumbdrive utilizes technology similar to Sandisk's CompactFlash memory cards. It, however, can not be used with peripherals, such digital cameras. The solid-state drives are designed strictly to work with PCs.